Showing posts with the label Seven Churches

Seven Spirits of God

Greetings are sent to the seven churches of Asia from God, Jesus, and the seven spirits of God that are before the throne .  The opening salutation in  Revelation  is from God, Jesus Christ, and the “ seven spirits of God ,” and the last phrase is unique to the book. But the idea of God having “ seven spirits ” creates difficulties since elsewhere Scripture stresses His oneness. Moreover, in  Revelation , the “ Spirit ” always speaks only in the singular.

What Must Come to Pass

From the beginning, Revelation states that its purpose is to show God’s servants “what things must soon come to pass” – Revelation 1:1-3 .  Revelation’s first paragraph lists its purpose, themes, and main characters, and that purpose is to show God’s servants “ what things must come to pass ,” and it establishes their timing as “ soon .” The imminence of these events is emphasized further by stating that the “ season is near .”

Greetings from the Throne

The salutations from the throne highlight key themes of the book, especially the victory and present reign of Jesus .  The next paragraph presents greetings to the “ seven churches ” from the “ throne ” - from God, Jesus, and the “ Seven Spirits of God .” It stresses Christ’s current over the earth. His sovereignty is based on his death and resurrection. The recipients of the book   are identified as the “ seven churches ” from key cities of the province.


The church at Laodicea receives no commendation, only corrections, and warnings. Its hope lies in becoming “gold refined by fire”  –  Revelation 3:14-22 .  Laodicea was founded on the site of an older village named  Diospolis , meaning the “ city of Zeus .” It was sixty-five kilometers southeast of Philadelphia and one hundred and sixty kilometers east of Ephesus. Because of its location at the confluence of three major trade routes, the city depended heavily on trade with its neighbors and the rest of the region.

Pillar in the Temple - Philadelphia

Philadelphia receives no correction since she has remained faithful, and therefore, she will be kept from the hour of trial  – Revelation 3:7-13.  Philadelphia is fifty kilometers southeast of Sardis and straddles a major road into the interior, making commerce and trade with the other cities of the province vital to its economy. It was established in 189 B.C. by the king of Pergamos, coming under Roman rule later when the last Pergamene king bequeathed the kingdom to Rome in 133 B.C.


The church in Sardis receives no commendation, only warnings, and is summoned to repent while time remains  –  Revelation 3:1-6 .  Sardis was situated approximately sixty kilometers south of Thyatira, near the crossroads between Smyrna and Pergamos, and commerce was vital to its economic and cultural life. Sardis is mentioned in  Obadiah , with the name “ Sepharad ” being the Hebrew form of ‘Sardis’ (“ They of the captivity of Jerusalem who are in  Sepharad  shall possess the cities of the South ”).


In the letter to the “ messenger ” in Thyatira, a structural change occurs. In the first three letters, the call to heed the Spirit’s voice preceded the promises to overcomers. From this point forward, it follows the promises and concludes each letter. This serves to emphasize the need to “ hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches ” through the seven letters sent by the risen Son of Man.

Hold Fast My Name - Pergamos

Pergamos receives praise for remaining faithful to his name, but correction for tolerating the teachings of Balaam  – Revelation 2:12-17.  P ergamos  is some sixty kilometers to the north of Smyrna and twenty kilometers from the sea. Though not a major commercial center, on occasion, it serves as the seat of the Roman provincial government and the center for the imperial cult. The first temple dedicated to Augustus Caesar in Asia was built at Pergamos, making it “ground zero” for the veneration of the emperor.

Faithful Until Death

After persevering through persecution, the ever-faithful church at Smyrna is promised even more tribulation, but also great rewards to overcomers .  Smyrna was a seaport renowned for its beauty, and it prospered from its seaborne commerce. Unfortunately for the church, the imperial cult was well-established in the city. The origin of the congregation is unknown, and the book of  Revelation  is the only New Testament document that mentions the city .

Tree of Life - Ephesus

The messenger at Ephesus is commended for rejecting false apostles, chastised for leaving his first love, and summoned to return to his first works .  In his exhortation to the “ messenger ” at Ephesus, Jesus begins by stressing his intimate knowledge of all the churches. He is “ grasping ” the seven messengers tightly in his right hand, and “ walking ” continuously among the seven assemblies. Therefore, he knows their “ works and labor and endurance ” – (Revelation 2:1-7).

Call to Action

Through a series of seven beatitudes, Revelation summons believers to faithfulness despite hostility and persecution .  The book of  Revelation  is not a tool of divination for deciphering future mysteries. Instead, it summons God’s people to vigilance, right living, and perseverance in testimony during persecution. Its concern is not  when  certain events will occur, but  how  the churches must “ overcome ” and thus  arrive at the city of “ New Jerusalem .”

Beginning of the Creation

Revelation looks forward to the reign of Jesus in the New Creation, a reality inaugurated by his Death and Resurrection .  In his letter to Laodicea, Jesus is declared the “ beginning of the creation of God .” In his death and resurrection, he inaugurated the New Creation. In the same sentence, and in the present tense, he also is called the “ Amen ,  the faithful and true witness ,” appellations applied to him previously in the book’s prologue.

Kept from the Hour

In the third chapter of  Revelation , Jesus promises to “ keep ” overcoming saints in the city of Philadelphia “ from the hour of trial ” that is coming upon the “ inhabitants of the earth .” A comparison with similar passages demonstrates that this “ hour ” refers to the time of judgment when those whose names “ are not written in the Lamb’s book of life ” experience the “ second death ” in the “ Lake of Fire .”

The Nicolaitans

Deceivers within the seven congregations are encouraging disciples of Jesus to compromise with the idolatrous rites of pagan society .  One of the chief concerns in the seven letters is with deceivers working in the congregations. While several groups and one individual are named, the net effect of their efforts is to cause believers to “ commit fornication and eat food offered to idols .” In short, to induce idolatry and accommodation to the surrounding pagan society.

Food Offered to Idols

Upon his arrival in Babylon, Daniel was confronted with a predicament. If he consumed the food and drink of the king, it would impinge on his ritual impurity. While he might have wished to avoid eating “unclean” meats, more likely, his concern was that consuming the “ king’s delicacies ” meant participation in the idolatrous rituals of the Babylonian court and pagan religion.

Seven Churches - Overview

The visitation of Jesus to the churches of Asia prepares the reader for the visions that follow the seven letters .  In his vision, John sees a glorious figure “ like a Son of Man…in the midst of seven golden lampstands .” In the interpretation, it becomes clear that this is Jesus (“ I was dead, and I am alive forevermore ”), and the “ lampstands ” are identified as the “ seven churches of Asia ” that are under his ever-watchful care.

The Son of Man

The first vision centers on Jesus in his role as the high priest who oversees the churches. When introducing himself, John did not hold up his apostolic credentials. Instead, he identified himself with the plight of the seven churches. He was a “ fellow participant ” with them in the “ tribulation and the kingdom and the endurance .” Likewise, the “ Son of Man ” is intimately involved with the care of his people.

Revelation's Recipients

In its entirety, Revelation is addressed to seven churches located in the Roman province of Asia in the first century A.D .  From start to finish, the book of  Revelation  is addressed to the “ seven churches of Asia ,” and they do not fade from the picture in the later sections of the book. While it may include a larger audience,  Revelation  is first and foremost a message for those seven assemblies, and the significance of its visions cannot be understood apart from them.

Prologue to Revelation

The prologue presents the basic themes of the book and declares that the season of fulfillment has arrived  –  Revelation 1:1-3 .  Revelation’s  first paragraph details its purpose, key themes, main characters, and  how it communicates . Its purpose is  to reveal . Its protagonists are  God ,  Jesus , and the “ his servants .”   It is “ the prophecy ,” and its source is  God . The contents concern “ what things must come to pass ,” which provides its chronological perspective (“ soon ”).